That late tip last night still has me behind schedule, and why not provide you all with some light Friday evening reading while the Bucks take the day off? Head to your local Culver’s and pick up 54 of something, then settle in with me on this cold Midwestern evening as we recount a warm and fuzzy week. As you might expect after four Ws, there are a lot of good grades to hand out this week...
Giannis Antetokounmpo: A+ (last week: A-)
4 GP, 34.0 MPG, .602/.364/.569, 44.8 PPG, 15.5 RPG, 4.0 APG, 3.0 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Two fifty pieces, one in a mere 30 minutes, a new endorsement from Wisconsin’s preeminent fast-food joint... how much better can it get? I’ll single out the Clippers masterpiece to describe Giannis’ progression through a marquee NBA matchup: an 0/5 start from the field that had former Badgers coach Stan Van Gundy swooning over Ivica Zubac (a very good defender!), settling for jumpers and turning it over while trying to establish a favorable whistle. Twentysome minutes later, the same mustachioed analyst though the Clippers were better off without their rim protector because of how Giannis wrecked him, both through attacking the basket and drawing fouls. This game deserves placement on Giannis’ mantle of great performances, and with another typically excellent effort tomorrow, should net him consecutive Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, which would mark three in a row for the Bucks and a franchise first.
Khris Middleton: A- (last week: B+)
4 GP, 18.0 MPG, .457/.294/.929, 15.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.0 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG
He’s getting there, folks! Outside of a big three late on Thursday, this wasn’t a marquee week from deep, but it his defensive efforts during the midst of each half on LA’s big wings were the most encouraging sign yet that he’s getting healthy. His strength and length are enough to keep any opposing star wing honest regardless of athleticism. Let’s look forward to over twenty minutes tomorrow? Not that there’s any need to rush.
Jrue Holiday: B+ (last week: A-)
4 GP, 34.0 MPG, .364/.227/.733, 16.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 6.5 APG, 3.0 TPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.0 BPG
The 2023 Eastern Conference All-Star was in vintage playoff form Thursday evening, misfiring from the field (0 for 6) to start, but his defensive efforts on Kawhi Leonard were outstanding all evening long. He got in a bit of foul trouble early, but cleared that up too. Even if his wayward jumper got him pulled early in the second half, these last two outings (28.6% FG%) are probably aberations given how strong his form has looked lately.
Brook Lopez: B+ (last week: B+)
4 GP, 26.8 MPG, .486/.200/.875, 11.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.8 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 2.0 BPG
Weird plus/minus figures and overall poor matchup with the Clippers aside, Lopez had a banner week protecting the basket while flummoxing plenty of smaller opponents driving inside. The hope is that his shot won’t escape him for much longer—he’s 0 for his last 9 from three—and he’ll stay out of foul trouble with some of the more crafty slashers than he did against Charlotte.
Grayson Allen: B+ (last week: B)
4 GP, 28.1 MPG, .429/.435/.750, 9.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Tasked with Paul George early in last night’s tilt, Allen’s defense was actually pretty solid, despite the lower minute total that may suggest he was played off the floor once again by a team featuing big wings. PG13 struggled rather noticeably throughout, so credit where credit is due, even if Allen was a more secondary stopper. He saw fewer touches too, which limited his offensive effectiveness and makes him look less playable in such matchups. It’s reasonable to continue withholding judgement in these circumstances.
Pat Connaughton: B+ (last week: A)
4 GP, 30.0 MPG, .406/.364/.667, 9.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.5 TPG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Another player who didn’t really find many opportunities against a big defense, Connaughton still contributed big time with ten boards last night. After a big week of shooting, he might have been due to come down to earth, but he’s settled in enough to this starting role and as a Portis fill-in on the glass that he’s playable even if he’s misfiring.
Joe Ingles: A- (last week: A-)
4 GP, 24.4 MPG, .471/.500/.750, 6.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Speaking of consistency, Ingles is now a month in to providing the Bucks with quality work nearly every night, only shooting below 40% from deep thrice in any of the last fourteen contests. Beyond the facilitation he provides alongside both starting and bench units, he’s sneakily a quality defender on big wings like George by his size alone. That veteran guile and strength could go a long way.
Jevon Carter: A- (last week: B)
4 GP, 14.9 MPG, .625/.500/.000, 6.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.3 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Oh Jevon. Every PU3IT (pull up three in transition) you jack up makes me cringe a bit, then smile and shake my head when they go in. To be fair, when it works (last Friday in Indy) it’s a shot in the arm, though come May I’d like to see him pass it a bit more when transition opportunities get scarce. As well as he did with Charlotte’s guards, he struggled too much with Norman Powell, and there isn’t even a big size differential there. Ultimately, Carter is yet another Buck role player who is highly matchup-dependent.
Wesley Matthews: A (last week: B)
4 GP, 20.3 MPG, .350/.375/.833, 6.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.3 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG
If there was any doubt this man could still play sensational NBA defense, look no further than the final possession last night. It wasn’t just that, though. Primarily on George but switching with Holiday onto Leonard, he had the iso-heavy stars in jail most of the evening. Bud’s judiciousness with his minutes over the last month is paying off, as he looks fresh every time the Bucks need him. Bonus points for his first double-digit scoring outing all season on Tuesday, which was also the first time in 2022–23 he sank more than two triples. Nine rebounds on Sunday (one more his scoring output!) is pretty excellent too.
Jordan Nwora: C- (last week: C+)
3 GP, 10.5 MPG, .333/.250/.000, 2.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.0 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG
He’s playing, he’s not hurting the Bucks, and hopefully that’s enough for an opposing team to accept him in a trade package. Nwora actually put in some quality shifts against the Pelicans off the bench and racked up some offensive rebounds, so at least the effort’s there.
Mike Budenholzer: A (last week: B+)
4-0 W-L, 117.4 ORtg (8th), 107.5 DRtg (5th), 9.9 NetRtg (3rd)
From a statistical and results perspective, this was one of the best weeks of the season, while it’s still clear the Bucks aren’t yet playing to their fullest potential (and that’s ok). Bud’s choices down the stretch were enough to help them slip past the Clippers, eschewing the drop scheme (and Lopez by extension) in favor of switching, and boy did it look pretty. It also prevented Powell from torching them any further. Against the pesky Hornets, he went notably small with four guards to start the fourth (this happened last night too for a briefer period) and this unconventional choice paid off, with the veteran Bucks able to keep pace with the youthful Hornets backcourt.
Incomplete: Sandro Mamukelashvili (1 GP, 3 MIN), George Hill (1 GP, 1 MIN), MarJon Beauchamp (1 GP, 1 MIN), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (1 GP, 1 MIN), Serge Ibaka (DNP), A.J. Green (DNP), Bobby Portis (injured)
Taking care of depleted and less-formidable competition at home while getting healthy has Milwaukee in pretty good position heading into a more substantial slate heading into the All-Star break. As they head west this week, the diminishing three-point shooting of the past couple games needs to reverse itself, even against the unimposing Blazers and healthy-but-underperforming Lakers. Perhaps they were due to come down to earth after a good dozen games making up for their late-December/early January cold stretch. Anyway, are we due for any more fifty burgers this week? Will Middleton play 25 minutes? All in good time. We made it through the mid-December to mid-January slump, this team has won eight of its last nine, let’s have a nice Friday evening.
How would you grade the Bucks’ performance this past week?
This poll is closed
What are your individual grades? Let me know in the comments below.